Book Review: The Future of Us - Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATORS: Steven Kaplan, Mary Ellen Cravens

SYNOPSIS: Emma just got her first computer, and is getting it set up when her friend and neighbor, Josh, comes over with a disk of America Online which includes 50 free hours. When she finally gets it loaded onto her computer and logs on for the first time, she is surprised by a popup window asking for her name and password again. What shows up next is webpage called Facebook, and the profile that it opens to is for someone who looks just like she does, only older.

REVIEW: When I picked out The Future of Us, I was simply trying to get an audio book on my iPod to listen to while I worked a big massive (and a bit tedious) spreadsheet at work. I wasn’t being overly choosy, and since the book was about a teenage girl getting AOL when it first came out, I thought I would enjoy it since I was a teenager when AOL first came out and I remember getting it rather vividly. And then it talked about Facebook – the social central of practically all of our lives at this point – so I just assumed I would enjoy it.

When I decided on this book I had just skimmed the synopsis, not read all of the details, so at first I just figured somehow this story would follow the characters for the next several years from the transition between AOL and Facebook, forgetting to keep in mind that this is a young adult novel, so it’s probably not going to move beyond the young adult stage of life. What actually happens is Emma gets AOL for the first time, and as she’s logged in a webpage suddenly opens up and she finds herself looking at her own profile on Facebook (which doesn’t actually exist yet) 15 years in the future.

I think my favorite parts include all the time-sensitive references from Emma’s current life; disk man, VHS tapes, Boys 2 Men and Alanis Morrisette; and also references to now: iPad, Facebook (duh), Pluto…. I really enjoyed smiling at all the references, and felt that it was all very well written, however I do feel like the book was specifically for my generation rather than the current bunch of Young Adults…but I don’t know, maybe they’ll enjoy it to? I also wonder, should I be embarrassed that I still love Dave Matthews (a frequent reoccurring band) and Green Day??

Emma was a little bit selfish of a character. She, understandably, becomes obsessed with Facebook (who doesn’t) but what she’s really concerned about is how her life looks in the future. She and Josh, her best friend from next door, very quickly discover that even the smallest decision made in the moment can drastically change how their futures look. She is soon going around making all these big and little changes to try and “fix” her future. It takes her a long time to discover the real reason behind why she seems so unhappy in the future.

Josh is a bit more down to earth. A little less obsessed.... I did enjoy his perspective a bit more than Emma. Probably because, I might have reacted just like Emma, and then one day realized I should have been a bit more like Josh. Josh is MEGA thrilled to find out that he will eventually end up married with kids to Sydney – the very popular and very hot girl from school. But Josh begins realizing that while Sydney is someone he could be happy with, she isn’t his first pick.

I think that Emma and Josh are epitome of typical teenagers. Their thoughts and actions were extremely predictable, but this made them fun and easy to like. This book held no surprises for me, everything was a bit expected; but to listen to it play out and to watch Emma and Josh grow, all while running with their disk man, and drawling Warner Brothers characters made this probably one of my favorite easy-going books of this year. We all need to fill our lives with some fluff now and then, don’t you agree?


The Beginning of After - Jennifer Castle

GENRE:  Young Adult - Fiction
FORM:  Book

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):  Anyone who's had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It's all about Before and After. What I'm talking about here is the "ka-pow," shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel's world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel's life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss--a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

REVIEW:  As expected, The Beginning of After has its tough moments. Those moments where you just want to put down the book and have a short cry. Laurel is having to cope with the loss of her mother, father and younger brother, and while she is not doing it alone, it is still a very lonely and personal process. She manages through it rather well, probably much better than I would have actually.

The book focuses a lot on how she feels about how others feel about her though. Yes, she is managing her grief, but she is also very wrapped up in what people are saying about her, and what the motivation of others is rather than just accepting their help, or politeness. But despite people talking about her and not knowing if people are being real or just acting out of pity, she sticks through it and deals with everything the best she can. Her life has been altered, and finding out how to live it in its new form is tricky.

The story is also about David, whose father was driving the car that ended up off the road, and who’s mother was also killed in the accident. Where Laurel stays at home and deals with the pain and the healing, David runs. He becomes as anonymous as he possibly can so he doesn’t have to deal with false niceties or pity. He also runs to forget his grief. The only connection to home he keeps for a while is to Masher, and to Laurel.

I did enjoy this book. While it was sad, it wasn’t overly difficult to read most of the time. I felt like it got a bit too long, and I’m sure there was a lot that could have been cut out and it still would have been a complete book. But the length also helped to bring home the point that healing from tragedy is a long, slow process.